When people think of baseball in Japan, most think of the legendary Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, or even New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka. Some may also remember busts such as Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Takashi Kashiwada, and Kaz Matsui. But there may be a new star rising from Japan, and he goes by the name of Shohei Otani. At age 22 Otani is quickly becoming the most intriguing international prospect, and for good reason.
On the mound, Otani pitched to a cool 10-4 record with a 1.86 ERA and averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. While these numbers on the mound may stand out, they only tell half the story. In 382 appearances at the dish, Otani slugged 22 home runs while hitting at a .322 average. This earned him the honor of not only the top award for pitching in his league but also the honor of top designated hitter. For these reasons, Otani has been hailed as the Japanese Babe Ruth, due to his due skills. These great comparisons and sparkling numbers have made many believe that Otani will be the next big time international free agent. But we will he ever graze the grasses of Citi Field.
Maybe as a member of a visiting team, he will. There is no chance that the Mets would make a run at Otani, who’s price tag may set an international record. While it would be nice to see a dual talent like Otani on the roster, the Mets simply won’t have space or the money. Otani’s position besides pitcher is outfielder, which we know the Mets currently have a stockpile of. He is also a left-handed batter, which only adds to the fact that there is no room for him in the outfield. As for the mound, the Mets have one of, if not the best young starting rotations in the game. Not only are they talented, but they will soon become expensive. Locking up the rotation mid to long range will cost some major money, sparing none for Otani.
While Otani’s stats from both a pitching and batting perspective are impressive, he only produced those in the year 2016. It is an unknown if Otani can produce consistently yet. At age 22, he is likely to suffer some setbacks, but many believe he will be able to continue the strong stats. It must be remembered though that Otani produced these stats in Japan, and not Major League Baseball. It is unknown if his talent can translate into a successful major league career. It is likely though that if he continues to put up numbers similar to his 2016 season, an MLB team will take a chance on him.
A player like Otani may be better suited in the American League, where there is a designated hitter. This could allow Otani to hit at the DH position, and also be a regular starter. Look for the Yankees to make a push for Otani, a player full of risk and intrigue. While Otani’s inevitable MLB career will be interesting to watch, it won’t be a career adorned in blue and orange.